Guest Contributor Perfectplants.co.uk an online plant and garden store give advice on designing and planting a small garden.
Small garden magic:
Use every little space and make it feel special
You might think that garden lovers would want a big garden in which to indulge their passion. But sometimes small is not only beautiful, but better. Why? Because a small garden can be designed in a way that brings exactly what’s wanted, without breaking the bank. It can also be micro-managed and maintained more easily, thus bringing the ultimate in satisfaction.
Modern houses generally come with small gardens which present a range of predictable problems: lack of privacy; lack of space, boring design; little or no storage space; seemingly few planting opportunities; fiddly shapes to negotiate when mowing; and more. But one person’s problem is another person’s challenge and these diminutive gardens present a huge opportunity to be creative, inventive and imaginative.
Where should you start?
If you are prepared to make a little investment, you could consider introducing some sort of height or change in levels. Moving from one level to another increases the feeling of space and lends the feeling of three dimensional shapes. You could incorporate steps up or down to the main garden from the patio, or at least install some planters in order to give height and enable planting on a different level.
If you are merely looking to improve the planting in order to create a more luscious garden experience, vertical planting will be the way to go. All gardens have a boundary, and these can be planted with an array of interesting climbers. Don’t pick just one: even a small garden can accommodate dozens of climbing plants. These can be carefully chosen to flower at different times of year so that you gain the maximum benefit of interest. A garden mirror, cleverly inserted onto a fence and surrounded by climbers can reflect some light back into the garden and make it look larger. It also creates the illusion that there’s a doorway or space beyond. Tricks and intrigue: you have the chance to work some garden magic!
Shapes, structure, and subtle tweaks
You really don’t want to be able to see everything at a glance. Even in a tiny space, it’s possible to create an incentive to explore. Try to eliminate the rectangular lawn, edged with a thin strip of planting. It’s dull and boring and offers no reason to want to walk around the garden. Instead, a circular or oval lawn tends to draw you around it. Where the beds are necessarily wider because the square corners of the garden are more distant, insert stepping stones to a ‘destination’. Maybe a bench; perhaps a statue; a bird table or even a water feature. But make sure the surrounding planting obscures part of it because this will really make you want to go there.
If you decide to do away with the lawn altogether, make sure you give sense and direction to an outdoor space so that the eye can comfortably roam around the garden. This means you will need a circulation route, maybe a path through planting to a seating and dining area. Avoid too many types of hard materials as it creates a haphazard atmosphere. Consider demarcation between the patio next to the house and the start of the garden. A raised planter or at least some tall planting achieves this rather well.
Seven climbers that will clothe your fences in joy
- Number one on the list has to be Clematis. There are more than 200 different Clematis from which to choose. Selection is tricky! Consider the flowering time, the ultimate height, the direction in which it will face, the dryness of the site and whether you want it to be evergreen or deciduous. You’ll have no problem choosing several.
- The star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, is invaluable for a sunny fence. It’s an elegant, evergreen climber that bears white, star-shaped, richly scented flowers throughout summer. What’s more, the glossy foliage turns a pleasing coppery bronze in autumn, an unusual feature for an evergreen.
- Foliage with a curious ‘wow’ factor is Actinidia kolomikta. This is a type of kiwi, grown for its foliage which looks as if it has been splashed with paint. Some, but not all, of its green leaves are edged or seemingly ‘dipped’ in creamy-white or pink. The random splashes appear on slightly older foliage, so be patient after planting!
- Passiflora, the passion flower, is a climber to which it is worth allocating some fence-room. It likes sunshine and now comes in different colours including the normal blue, plus rosy red and even white. It produces fruit that are edible but best left on the vine as an ornamental attraction.
- Parthenocissus henryana is a Chinese Virginia creeper that is more suitable for small gardens than its larger Virginia creeper cousin. It’s still capable of growing to 10 metres high, however, so it’s a good idea to keep it in check. With lovely autumn colour and the capability of growing in shade, this is a highly versatile and rather beautiful plant.
- Campsis radicans, the trumpet vine. This is self-clinging, once it gets going, and it produces the most appealing trumpet-shaped orange flowers in late summer. Give it a sunny wall and allow it to climb up to at least four metres. You won’t regret planting this beauty.
- If you have a sunny, sheltered site, consider planting Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’. This is a charming shrub which you can grow as a climber, reaching heights of up to 2.5 metres in time. It is semi-evergreen and produces bell-shaped orange and red flowers during summer and into autumn. Needs protection from very low temperatures.
Perfectplants.co.uk is an on-line supplier of garden plants, house plants, garden equipment, furniture and gifts for all seasons across the UK. www.perfectplants.co.uk